Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory

the other queen 
philippa gregory
c. 2008
433 pages
completed 12/20/2009

read for: TBR list

*may contain spoilers*

Chased out of Scotland by rebellious lords, Mary Queen of Scots turns to her cousin, Queen Elizabeth of England for safety and support. Instead she finds herself imprisoned and under suspicion and surveillance by the queen she took to be a friend. George Talbot and his wife Bess are ordered to act as Mary's jailer. Though at first imagining this to be a great honor, the Talbots will soon see their fortunes, their friends, their reputations, and even their marriage falling apart all due to their never ending duties as royal jailers.

It has been a WHILE since I've read anything solely for pleasure, so it was so nice to dive into this book I've been wanting to read for some time now. And I was so glad I ended up enjoying it as much as I did. I had read some lukewarm reviews on other blogs, mostly people saying it was a little slow, so I was a little apprehensive going in. History can get a little boring if nothing's going on. You can only get so much pleasure out of descriptions of castles and historical lifestyles. Luckily for me, I was not one of those people who found this installment of Gregory's Tudor series too slow.

For me, it is a remarkable historical author who can make me pull my hair and think for a split second 'OH MY GOD, MARY'S REBELLION WILL COMPLETELY CRUSH THE ENGLISH ARMY AND SHE IS SO TOTALLY GOING TO TAKE ELIZABETH'S CROWN!' I mean, let's be for real...I obviously know there is no way that could happen. But I swear, more than once I forgot what I was really reading about and found myself completely believing that Queen Mary was going to win. And then I got super bummed out when reality came back to me.

For the most part, I think I enjoy Gregory's three-person narratives. Seeing the same story from three different perspectives adds a lot of layers to what is going on and lets the reader understand certain secrets and betrayals and things like that a lot better. It also makes it hard for me to form a consistent opinion on any of the three narrators. When I read from George's perspective I think highly of him. I feel him to be extremely tormented by his loyalty to one queen and his love for another. However, when I read from Bess's point of view I am so frustrated by George. And the same goes for the other narrators. My opinion on each one depends on who is narrating.

I just have to mention that George's nightmare/vision at the end kind of broke my heart. Thinking of him, who had spent about eighteen years as companion/guardian/jailer to Queen Mary, presiding over her execution with tears streaming down his face was too sad for me. And the end of sweet eight-year-old Anthony Babington (okay, he was not eight at the end anymore, but he was about eight for most of the book)... But I guess there's no real way for the end of a book about Mary Queen of Scots to not be a downer.


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